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Ashton Fan

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  1. Tom47. Beaumont's "The Ballet Called Swan Lake" was republished in paperback by Dance Books in 2012 so it should not be too difficult to find a copy. The happy ending to the ballet is an alteration dating back to Soviet times. It is one of a number of "improvements" made to the ballet after the Revolution in order to convert a work created for a knowledgeable, elite,cultured audience into one that would appeal to a more proletarian one. At the same period and for the same reason the mime passages disappeared from the Petipa ballets performed in Russia. While in order to hold the audience's interest, as they might get bored by all the processing about that occurs in Act 1 Swan Lake a new character, the Jester, was added to the cast of characters in an attempt to hold the audience's attention.
  2. Knowing people who have watched her progress through the RBS I would say that Hayward is one of those dancers that everyone recognises from the outset as having something really special about them. While at the school she won the Lynn Seymour award for expressive dancing so that gives you an idea of the category of dancer to which she belongs except you would not expect someone cast in the same mould as Seymour to make her debut in a principal role dancing the ballerina role in Ashton's Rhapsody which was created on Collier who was exceptionally strong technically. Its the sort of role that is generally danced by senior dancers with loads of stage experience, technique and stamina. But that is exactly what happened in 2014. In that year Hay and Hayward made their debuts in principal roles dancing in Rhapsody a ballet created for Baryshnikov and Collier at the peak of their powers. They did not just get through it, which would in itself have been commendable in dancers so young and inexperienced, they gave a performance which emphasised the ballet's beauty rather than the technical difficulties in which it abounds. They made the choreography seem normal, natural and elegant and did so again when it was programmed with The Two Pigeons during the season that is now drawing to a close. Their approach to the ballet is rather different from that taken by McRae and Osipova and to my mind far more stylistically correct since Hay and Hayward make light of the choreography rather than making a meal of it. Hayward joined the company at some point during the 2010/ 2011 Season and missed out on her main stage graduation performance. As the company does not think that anyone is interested in who is dancing the sundry fairies in Sleeping Beauty, the divertissements in it or those in Swan Lake you don't know who you are going to see until you pick up a cast sheet for the performance. This makes it difficult to catch the full range of performances that you might wish to see of up and coming dancers.Unless they are dancing in a major role where the casting is announced in advance it is a matter of luck as to whether you get to see them or not. Hayward made her mark as an Ashton dancer in Rhapsody and established her credentials as a MacMillan dancer as Princess Stephanie in Mayerling. Since then she has given an extraordinarily mature and moving account of the title role in Manon, danced a very good Juliet which might have touched greatness if she had been partnered by a responsive Romeo. The general consensus among the paid critics was that her performance showed the limits of what a performer can hope to achieve without a responsive partner on stage with her. Dancing Alice with Muntagirov she almost convinced me that the work is a ballet rather than an entertainment. She has recently added to her repertory Perdita in Wheeldon's Winter's Tale, a role in his ballet In the Golden Hour and the Girl in the Invitation. In addition to all sorts of minor roles she has also danced Princess Florine which I have not seen and in the pas de trois in Swan Lake which I have managed to see her do. She is due to make her debut as Lise early next season and I would not be at all surprised to find her cast as Aurora after Christmas Indeed I would not be surprised to see Naghdi and Stix-Brunell also cast as Aurora as all three are due to make their debuts as the Sugar Plum Fairy towards the end of the year. As all three, have until now, been too junior to have ballets programmed to display their talents they none of them seem to have been rigidly typecast . The dancer who possibly has most grounds for complaint about typecasting is Takada who appears to be seen as the company's next classical ballerina.. She has danced Odette/Odile, Aurora; Giselle; Kitri and the Sugar Plum Fairy but then management cast her as the Young Girl in Two Pigeons with James Hay as the Young Artist and they were excellent together. The dancers to watch out for in the future are:- 1) Naghdi and Stix-Brunell who can't be far off promotion to the rank of Principal. 2) Matthew Ball just promoted to Soloist. He is a fine dance actor and gave an excellent performance of Romeo with Naghdi and an equally compelling account of the Artist in Two Pigeons playing opposite Stix-Brunell. 3) Tierney Heap just promoted to Soloist. She almost managed to make Acosta's Carmen work. Her Myrthe is pretty good for such a young dancer. It will be interesting to see whether she is cast as Lilac Fairy, 4) Reece Clarke just promoted to First Artist . He replaced Golding in the Somes' role in Symphonic Variations and made a splendid job of the role. He danced a wonderful Jeannne de Brienne in Nureyev's Raymonda Act III at his graduation performance. He has recently partnered Yanowsky in After the Rain and is down to dance the SPF's Cavalier at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see whether he is cast as the Prince and/ or in the Florestan and his Sisters variation in Sleeping Beauty next year. 5) Chisato Katsura who joined the company after graduating from the RBS last year. At the 2014 graduation performance, while in her second year, she danced a very musical and technically assured account of Raymonda to Clarke's Jeanne de Brienne. Last year at her own graduation performance she danced in an excerpt from the betrothal scene from La Bayadere. Having spent a year in the relative obscurity of the corps de ballet it is just possible that we might see her in some of the divertissements in Beauty as well as one or more of the Fairy Variations during the course of the run, All in all the season 2016-17 season which some complained about when it was first announced wh promises to be very interesting and possibly exciting. It would seem that Mr O'Hare does have a cunning plan and is sticking to it. He promised to build the company from the bottom up and it seems that he is doing precisely that. It would also appear that Gailene Stock really did transform the school as we are beginning to see dancers promoted who have undertaken a considerable part, if not all, of their training at the RBS.
  3. Here is the name of another female founder of a national ballet company, Marie Rambert, who established her own company which is still going strong. She was a Polish woman who started out as a follower of Isadora Duncan and ended up running a classical ballet company, She left Poland to study medicine in Paris where she gave Duncan inspired dance recitals. She then went to study eurythmics with Dalcroze which led Diaghilev to hire her to assist Nijinsky in staging the Rite of Spring by analysing the score and providing the dancers with counts. A woman of wide culture who spoke five or sx languages, her time with the Diaghilev company fired her interest in classical ballet. In England she was actively involved in the development of ballet in the post Diaghilev era. Her main claim to fame, apart from founding a company, was as the discoverer and nurturer of choreographic talent. She discovered Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, Frank Staff, Walter Gore, and others. Antony Tudor made many of his greatest works for her company. If you are interested in finding out more about her there is a biography "Quick Silver". Then there is Mona Ingoldsby who founded a short lived ballet company and worked with Nicholai Sergeyev in mounting the classics and a choreographer called Andree Howard. Howard made a lot of ballets but I believe that many of them were lost at an early stage because they were made for short lived ballet companies. The only one of her ballets that has a toehold in the repertory is La Fete Etrange (1940) which is based on an episode from the novel The Grande Meaulnes. An effective atmospheric ballet which I first saw danced successfully by Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet it was revived at Covent Garden during Mason's directorship where a combination of damage to the back cloth which was remedied murkily lit stage and some very odd casting decisions did nothing to enhance the reputation of Howard or her work. Another of her works Lady into Fox was reworked/ "reimagined" by the Rambert company a few years ago which did nothing for its creator's reputation as there was no attempt to recover and reconstruct the original.
  4. Only a fool would think that the directorship of POB was going to be anything other than a bed of nails for anyone who wants to change any aspect of the company. I'm afraid that I think that what has happened during Millepied's short directorship only illustrates just how much of an outsider he was and how little he knew about the company he was running.The company may now revere Nureyev and the productions he created for it but I don't recall that it was like that at the time he was in charge. It certainly was not "Roses, roses all the way". I would not assume that Madame Dupont is necessarily in for an easy time given what she is reported to have said about dancers entering the company and then waiting for their pensions and dancers faking it. But she is probably as well placed as anyone to re establish the company's credentials as a classical company.At least she knows what makes the company tick and she might even have a few allies in the company itself. She can use her former status as an etoile but she probably is well aware that she will need to work hard to gain the respect of her company now that she is the director. Selecting repertory that she believes will address the short comings that she has identified while appealing to the company's vision of itself is a sensible place to start. It will be interesting to see what the company looks like in a year's time and even more interesting to see whether she stays in post for any length of time. I should like to see the RB have another attempt with Tudor's works but I have to accept that the Royal Ballet's relationship with Tudor's ballets has been extremely limited and not that happy. Shadow Play was not judged a first class work when it was new and it probably owed its revival in 2000 to Dowell's imminent departure. The same could be said of Lilac Garden which was revived with less than satisfactory casts in the same year. As far as Dark Elegies.is concerned its company premiere in 1980 was not judged a success. It lacked the power of the Rambert company's revival in the late sixties. In 1980 there were a lot of people around who knew the ballet from performances by Rambert and found the RB performances rather anaemic in comparison. As for The Leaves are Fading that ballet belonged to perhaps the worst period in the company's entire history which everyone wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for those of us who like and admire Tudor's ballets and would like to see more of them I don't think that, even now, the RB is ready for another encounter with his works. In 2008 Mason arguably had a far more pressing list of things to do in relation to the state of the company and its relationship with vast tranches of its own core repertory than reviving ballets about which most of the audience would have had very mixed feelings. Anyone who only knew of the choreographer from the company's recent revivals of his work would not have been particularly enthusiastic about the centenary being the occasion for more revivals of his work. The great shame is that Rambert did so little during Tudor's centenary year and no longer seems to have dancers who can do full justice to his choreography. They seem to lack the weight of movement required and when it comes to a work like the Judgment of Paris all the dancers look far too fit and healthy to play the bored whores overwhelmed by the tedium of trying to entice their drunken client.
  5. I would hazard a guess that the cancellation of this mixed bill has nothing to do with the quality of the works being replaced or those that will be danced in their stead, nothing to do with coaches or potential casts and everything to do with the internal politics of the company. It enables Madame Dupont to establish her credentials as the director of the POB. I think that this decision is intended to be interpreted, particularly by company members, as a clear statement that as a former member of the company she respects and will maintain the POB's traditions which have been under attack.It is a quick and easy way for the new director to remind everyone that she is an insider, differentiate herself from her predecessor, establish her artistic vision for the company, indicate that she understands the concerns expressed about Mr.Millepied's choice of repertory and make the company feel good about itself. Somewhat off topic Mason's comments about Tudor's ballets not being part of the Royal Ballet's heritage are accurate as the only Tudor ballets in the company's repertory before Stretton's directorship were Shadow Play made for the RB in 1967 and revived in 2000; Lilac Garden acquired in 1968 and revived in 2000 and Dark Elegies acquired in 1980 and not subsequently revived.The Leaves are Fading was first staged for the company during Stretton's short lived directorship.Thinking about it Stretton's directorship was similar to Millepied's in a number of ways.Both men were outsiders who appear to have been indifferent to their new companies' repertory and history and whose choice of ballets to programme suggested that they wanted to turn the companies of which they were director into the companies in which they had worked as dancers. The effect at the RB of ignoring its repertory and giving precedence to a series of ballets, none of which were outstanding works and did not really suit the company was to send company morale through the floor. These "new" works did not please the company's regular audience either.They stayed away. As many of Tudor's greatest works were made for Ballet Rambert before he left for the US Mason probably felt relieved that Rambert rather than her own company would be expected to commemorate Tudor's centenary. She was criticised in some quarters because of the celebratory seasons that she had programmed in 20004 and 2006 although it should have been clear to those critics that she could hardly ignore Ashton's centenary in 2004 or the company's seventy fifth anniversary in 2006. Stretton's experience in London, Millepied's experience in Paris and Kobborg's experience in Bucharest suggest that any one about to become director of a ballet company should familiarise himself/ herself with the its repertory, and whatever he/she thinks of its quality, programme a reasonable quantity of it during his/her first couple of seasons. A little humility and respect for a company's traditions costs the director nothing to bestow but the cost of withholding it can be very high particularly if it is accompanied by ill considered criticism of the company's dancers
  6. Remember the critics have a long and inglorious history of being wrong about new ballets. Neither Sleeping Beauty or Manon were well received by the critics initially. This ballet is neither an abject failure nor an overwhelming masterpiece but audiences composed of ordinary ballet goers who pay for their own tickets like it. In fact I haven't heard such unforced enthusiasm for a new work for a very long time. I bought tickets for several performances in order to see the different casts and I have heard similar reactions at each of the performances that I have attended. Unlike the performances of the Schecter ballet "Untouchable" which I attended last year these enthusiasts were not a small group in one part of the auditorium who only made their presence felt on the first night. I have no doubt that it will be improved by judicious pruning which will tighten it up but it has received a very enthusiastic response from the paying public in its current state on each of the three night that I have attended . The ballet is about Mary Shelley's book rather than the mid 1930's Hollywood horror film starring Boris Karloff. It will be interesting to see what gets cut and what US critics and audiences think of it.
  7. Felix Garcia provided Massine with the material that he needed to make Tricorne but he did not appear in it. It is said that it was the shock of discovering that he was only wanted for source material rather than as a performer that prompted his descent into insanity There is more than one account of this story but all versions agree that Garcia was certified insane and placed in a mental hospital where he died. I think that the problem with reviving Massine's and Nijinska's works is that demi-character ballets of this type are not really in the active repertory of the sort of ballet company that is likely to have the resources to stage a revival and such companies rarely have enough dance actors that these works require. If dancers spend the bulk of their time dancing abstract ballets and nineteenth century classics they will concentrate their efforts on perfecting their technique rather than developing their ability to create characters through dance. A company dancing a classically based repertory will recruit dancers best suited to its core , repertory. It is unlikely to recruit demi-character dancers and as a result when we see these rarely performed ballets in performances they are danced by performers who are unlikely to be able to meet the choreographer's demands. The dancers we see will probably iron out the precise gestural details in the choreography as they depart too far from the classical norm Unlike a regular repertory work where an audience is likely to be able to distinguish between a weak ballet and a weak performance we shall almost certainly ascribe any failure of the ballet in performance to the choreographer rather than the dancers and their coaches. I find that there are elements missing in the performances of both ballets on this DVD. The four main characters in Train Bleu lack the clear delineation of character derived from gestures and body language that I associate with Nijinska's choreography. while the main characters in Tricorne are all rather bland. They are fuzzy in outline and generic rather than specific,milk and water rather than fino or amontillado. Le Tricorne is an evocation of Spain in its music, choreography and design, not an ethnographical or folklorist's account of the country, its people and culture. The ballet is divided into sections and where each one begins and ends should be clear. This lack of clarity may be the fault of the cameraman as much as those staging the ballet. Massine said that he knew that he needed more than perfect technique for the role of the Miller and that it was the image of an angry bull about to attack that enabled him to unleash the energy required for the role. There is no evidence of that in this recording. nor is there much evidence of the allure of the Miller's Wife. As Tricorne received its premiere in London in 1919 I wonder whether the Royal Ballet will consider reviving it in 2019 and who would be cast in a revival? Alexander Campbell or Matthew Ball might be good in it. I think it unlikely as Kevin O'Hare seems more interested in new works than reviving anything from the Diaghilev repertory. It will be interesting to see if he is tempted,
  8. I believe that Anton Dolin, the original "Beau Gosse", taught the solo to Stephen Beagley. and I assume that is the source of what Muntagirov danced. I saw Muntagirov dance the solo when he was with ENB in a programme that included Lifar's Suite en Blanc et Noir. I think Muntagirov made it look far more interesting than it appears on the POB recording of "Picasso and the Dance". In fact I know that he almost persuaded me that it might be worth seeing the whole ballet whereas I recall being singularly underwhelmed by Le Train Bleu when I first got the DVD and played it. It isn't just the contrast between a recording and a live performance. Muntagirov's account of the solo gave it the quirky and lively detail that I associate with Nijinska's choreography, on the recording the choreography seems to have been smoothed out. I can't make up my mind whether the problem is that the ballet is weak or whether the fault lies with those staging it or whether the problem is largely one of miscasting.. In the end I think it is a combination of all three. The ballet is a slight piece but it seems to me that on the DVD it has been completely undermined by casting beautiful classical dancers in the four main roles rather than using demi-character dancers for at least three of them. At the time that the ballet was created Diaghilev was no longer able to rely on a st eady supply of Russian trained dancers and as a result of this, and the fact that Massine's ballets dominated it, the general style of the company's repertory was demi character. I am not sure but I think that Lydia Sokolova who created the role of the female swimmer must have been a demi character dancer as well as she was London born and trained.Originally called Hilda Munnings she owed her name to Diaghilev who I believe conferred it on her in recognition of the quality of her performances in Massine's ballets. The choice of cast may help to explain the general dullness of the recorded performance I refuse to believe that the role of the tennis player which must be based on Suzanne Lenglen which Nijinska created for herself was merely larky. I don't expect another "Hostess" but I expect something with a little more substance even if it is only something that original audiences would have recognised as referring to Suzanne Lenglen the great French tennis player. In my opinion the performance of Le Tricorne is similarly undermined by beautiful dancers dancing beautifully without instilling any real fire or characterisation into the roles that they are playing.. Massine was a demi-character dancer and in Tricorne that matters. Some years ago SWRB/BRB staged a revival of Tricorne and it was a matter of luck whether you saw a dead or a living ballet.. I understand that the cast led by Michael O'Hare made the ballet live whereas the cast I saw was drawn from the company's more classical dancers and the revival as danced by them looked more like an exhumation than a revival. It seemed to be little more than an excuse to show the Picasso designs on stage rather than the staging of a viable theatrical piece. I had the same feeling about performances by London Festival Ballet in the early 1970's.
  9. The Royal Ballet has had both Les Biches and Les Noces in its repertory since the 1960's when Ashton persuaded Nijinska to mount the ballets for the company. They have been revived from time to time with Les Noces reappearing with greater regularity than Les Biches. Les Noces was last revived about four years ago and should be due for a revival in the not too distant future. Les Biches was last revived in 2005 and I sincerely hope that it will be revived again before Yanowsky retires as she is the best hostess that I have seen since Beriosova who was selected for the role by Nijinska herself. There is a short clip of Yanowsky in the role that turns up from time to time on YouTube. She has the chic sophisticated wit that the role requires. Both are truly great ballets and if the only ballets you ever see by Nijinska are these two then you realise that the woman was a genius. "Genius" is a much over used word in the context of the creative arts but absolutely accurate in the case of Nijinska. I also saw the "reconstruction" of Bolero and I did not find it very convincing. Perhaps I have not seen enough of her work although I have seen the Les Biches, Les Noces, the finger variation devised for the Sleeping Princess which de Valois had danced and of course the Three Ivans who used to feature in the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty . While great choreographers don't repeat themselves ad nauseam there are often some common threads throughout their work. With Ashton it tends to false footing the audience by setting up a pattern of repeats which suddenly changes while Balanchine, it seems to me, is for ever reworking Petipa models real or imagined. As far as Bolero is concerned it did not ring entirely true. Some of the groupings looked right but in its entirety it looked wrong. I regret I can't be more specific as it is several years since I saw the reconstruction. Out of interest does anyone know who mounted Les Biches for Munich ?
  10. The copyright to Fille now belongs to Jean Pierre Gasquet who was Alexander Grant's partner. This of course means that he has full artistic and financial control over it. I imagine that he uses someone connected to the Royal Ballet or the Frederick Ashton Foundation to stage and coach the work. Full details of the current rights holders can be found on the Frederick Ashton Foundation website. The Foundation, I believe,hopes in due course to acquire the fights to the other ballets. It now owns the rights to Daphnis and Chloe and to Les Patineus and Les Rendezvous. However it does not get the income from revivals of Les Patineurs or Les Rendezvous as that was left to the Royal Ballet School by Dereck Rencher . As it would seem that Rencher succeeded in separating the ownership of the ballets which Brian Shaw left him from the rights to the income generated by their revival it is to be hoped that the owners of the rest of Ashton's ballets will make similar provisions in their wills.
  11. Any Ashton ballet requires several viewings to really get to grips with the choreography. The structure of Rhapsody is different from other Ashton ballets because it focuses on the male dancer and the ballerina makes her appearance late in the day.For me Rhapsody began to look like an Ashton ballet when Dowell took over the lead male role. I think that was in part because Dowell revealed the flowing quality in the choreography and in part because I "knew" the choreography. it would be a mistake to think that Baryshnikov stood out because he danced as if he was engaged in mere technical display when he danced the lead role. He may have been disappointed by the role because it was an account of male technique but he did not perform it as an overt display piece. As with all of Ashton's ballets it has to be danced with consummate elegance and ease. If you see the difficulty and the effort there is something wrong with the performance. It is another one of his works in which a man after performing challenging choreography, shrugs and tells the audience "It was nothing". It has been danced pretty regularly by the company since its premiere and very few of the men who have danced in it have simply been known as technicians. During the current revival we had three casts. The one that I liked best was the Hay and Hayward cast because they were in total control of the choreographer's style, danced the ballet idiomatically and made the choreography flow in a way that McRae and Osipova did not. McRae places too much emphasis on the work's technical challenges and seems to slam each step down in front of you demanding that you admire his efforts. In fact McRae dances it as if it was Nureyev show jumping style choreography.Hay gets on and dances it and keeps it flowing. Osipova is still trying to master the style and the choreography of this work. The female role is scattered with Cecchetti based swift changes of balance and direction.They should look quirky and fun which they do when Hayward dances the ballet with Osipova they look difficult and awkward. I think my advice would be don't give up on Rhapsody it is a much better ballet than the streamed performance suggests it is. You really need to see another cast more in tune with the choreographer's style and in total command of it. At the first performance Baryshnikov added spice to the pot Osipova has as yet to achieve the same effect.
  12. daveridge. Try posting on the Ballet Co Forum website, The people who post there are mainly, although not exclusively, resident in the UK. It is difficult to imagine that no one in the Oxford area looks at it.
  13. Some time ago O'Hare said that he wanted to build the company from the bottom up. Next season's repertory suggests that he will be doing just that as it has far more obviously classical works which make technical demands of the entire company and far fewer of the MacMillan emote and sprawl variety,which don't, than usual. The great shock is that is that the Ashton and Macmillan repertory have almost the same amount of stage time allocated to them. There is a short video on the ROH website in which the new season is discussed. At one point O'Hare makes reference to the number of talented dancers he has in the company. During it he refers to the significance that the Sleeping Beauty has for the company almost as if he needs to justify its inclusion in the 2016-17 season and explain why it is not stuffed full of works by McGregor and other fashionable choreographers. I am baffled by the fact that he, or those around him, feel the need to refer to a number of company anniversaries as if the choice of such a classically based season requires explanation. The last time I looked the Royal Ballet was a classical company.I think that the choice of repertory reflects the fact that the company is in the process of renewing itself. Dancing in Sleeping Beauty and taking the roles of Aurora, Prince, Bluebird, Florine and Lilac Fairy is more than a right of passage for members of the company. Having said that I think that it would have been enough to have said I have a large number of talented dancers and they need the opportunity to dance in great works like Beauty and Fille.This season will give them the chance to do that. I expect that it will all look much more exciting when the casting is announced for the first two booking periods. I hope that O'Hare is really bold and casts not only the usual suspects as Aurora but Katsura who joined the company at the beginning of this season. Her RBS performances on the main stage in Raymonda Act III in 2014 and as Gamzatti in the betrothal celebrations section of Bayadere in 2015 were really exceptional. It would be wonderful if she and other junior dancers get given the opportunities that t next season's repertory seem to offer.
  14. It would seem that an interim general manager, a conductor called Tiberiu Soare has been appointed to run the opera house. It is being said that although Kobborg has been undertaking the function of the ballet's artistic director he did not sign a contract as artistic director as the post does not actually exist.It all sounds very odd to me. There is also the suggestion that Mr Soare does not think that English has any place in a Romanian national institution. It is unclear what Mr Soare's attitude is to the foreign dancers currently working in the company or whether he knows or cares about the extraordinary transformation Kobborg has made in the short time he has been with the ballet company.. It is at times like this that you realise that they do things very differently in the non English speaking world. I know that Rojo is reported as saying that she would not want to run a Spanish company because directing artistic organisations in Spain is heavily influenced by politics. Tenure has everything to do with which politicians are in power and very little to do with ability and competence. It looks as if the same may be true in Bucharest. Kobborg is in the fortunate position of being a man with an international reputation who now has acquired an impressive track record as an "artistic director" and a transformational leader in a very short space of time. It will be very interesting to see how events unfold in Bucharest and what Kobborg does next.
  15. It is not as if the company is short of petite dancers. Marquez danced with McRae in Fille and they were very good together. Marquez has now left but there are plenty of other dancers who are the right height for him Choe, Takada, Hayward, Naghdi, Magri and Katsura and O'Sullivan spring to mind. Some of these are very junior dancers but they are all very talented. At some point management needs to give them the chance to show what they can do. As the company does not generally seem to favour partnerships except for Nunez and Soares the indulgence of McRae's wishes seems all the more peculiar. Bringing in guest dancers can be justified if there is a shortage of talent in a company but when a company is brimming over with talent it can only be justified if the guest brings something really special to his or her performances. I am not sure that Salenko's presence can be justified on that basis. I think that people who book for McRae Salenko performances do so to see McRae rather than to see Salenko. She is good technically but her characterisation of different roles is of the one size fits all variety. She danced in Two Pigeons before Christmas and her Young Girl was a generic girl which would have done equally well for Swanhilde .She was not sufficiently irritating and her descent into misery was totally unconvincing. She danced with McRae in Tchaikovsky pas de Deux before Christmas and I thought that both of them over emphasised the technical display and underplayed the wit in the choreography. Unless the company is going to develop partnerships I would rather see McRae dance with a similar range of partners to those of the majority of other principal dancers. ..
  16. As I understand it Hamilton has been given leave of absence for another season. There has been no announcement that she has left the Royal Ballet which is why I said it will be interesting to see how permanent her permanent contract at Dresden turns out to be. As I said there were poor pickings for her in London this season. Hamilton needs greater performance experience than she would have been likely to get at Covent Garden even if this season's repertory had been more suited to her. She is very good in the MacMillan repertory but has surprising weaknesses which reveal themselves when she dances the nineteenth century repertory. I am sure that she knows that she needs to sort the weaknesses out if she wants to get to the very top. The story of how she got her training shows how determined she is to attain her goals.It will be interesting to see how she gets on with La Bayadere at Dresden. The problem for the up and coming dancer at Covent Garden is that management works on the basis that nearly every female principal will give us her Manon, her Odette Odile and her Juliet, As each of them usually get three performances of these lead roles it leaves little opportunity for the First Soloists and more junior dancers to get a shot at any of those roles. It looked as if management was addressing this problem this season when Hayward and Naghdi were given Juliet and Ball was given Romeo. and some junior dancers like Stix- Brunell, Magri , Hay and Ball were given roles in Pigeons. However the current revival of Giselle has not seen any of the promising younger dancers given an opportunity to dance Giselle or Albrecht and the rest of the season seems to offer few opportunities for them. Kevin O'Hare has the good fortune to have a company full of talent but he needs to select repertory which will develop his young dancers and then actually cast them. The company's use of Salenko as guest artist suggests that O'Hare's priorities are not as focussed on developing his company as they should be. It is not as if there are no talented dancers within the company who could dance with McRae and should have done so in Pigeons and several other ballets in which she has appeared with him. It will be very interesting to see which ballets are selected .for performance next season and even more interesting to see who actually gets to dance in them. The end of season promotions should give a strong indication of the direction the company is going to take. There are three principal positions vacant at present. I can think of dancers who might be in the running for those positions but I am not convinced that O'Hare will necessarily make any appointments at that level this season. I am sure that dancers like Ball, Clarke, Naghdi Stix-Brunell, Heap and O'Sullivan will be promoted.
  17. Melissa Hamilton's presence at Dresden during the 2016-2017 season is apparently with the permission of the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director which raises the question of how permanent the permanent contract will be? It will be interesting to see what happens at the end of next season. The move to Dresden for the 2015-2016 season was a very sensible move by Hamilton as apart from Romeo and Juliet and Sugar Plum Fairy there was not necessarily going to be a great deal for her in the Royal Ballet's choice of repertory this season. She is not an obvious Ashton dancer, there was no guarantee that she would get a chance to dance Giselle and she has not been used much by either Wheeldon or Scarlett in the past, It will be fascinating to see what promotions are made at the end of this season and what action O'Hare takes to develop his younger dancers in the 2016-2017 season through choice of repertory and casting decisions. He managed to give several young dancers opportunities in Two Pigeons but only principal dancers have been cast as Giselle this season which is a great pity. Whatever decisions Melissa Hamilton makes in the future about her career the decision to go to Dresden has given her performances and the opportunity to widen her repertoire.She would not have got the opportunity to dance something comparable to La Bayadere if she had remained in London this season. At Covent Garden management still does not seem to have got the balance right between giving the principals' their dues and developing the next generation.
  18. That Cinderella DVD although old has the considerable advantage of being danced by the Royal Ballet when it was Ashton's own company.There is not a single dancer in it who does not dance the choreography with complete mastery of the style. Unfortunately that is not something that can be said of more recent recordings where there has been a tendency to cast Ashton's ballets according to seniority and box office power than according to the dancers suitability for a role or as an exemplar of the style. On this DVD you get not only Sibley and Dowell as Cinderella and the Prince, Ashton and Helpmann as the Ugly Sisters but Alexander Grant who created the role as the Jester. Georgina Parkinson as the Fairy Godmother and a fine selection of dancers as the Fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In this recording you see the Jester danced as a character rather than a keg machine closely related to the Soviet Jester. There is an older recording made for US television which was broadcast in colour but only preserved in black and white. The cast includes Fonteyn, Somes ,Grant with Ashton and MacMillan as the Ugly Sisters. Cinderella, the fruit of Ashton's "private lessons with Petipa", is Ashton's Imperial Russian ballet, Sylvia is his Empire ballet and Ondine his modern take on the three act ballet using a score by Henze but incorporating a staging of the famous pas de l'ombre which appeared in the most famous nineteenth century ballet on this theme and storm at sea deliberately staged in nineteenth century fashion. As far as Fille is concerned there are four recordings to choose from. The oldest was recorded by the BBC with the original cast of Nadia Nerina, David Blair, Alexander Grant and Stanley Holden. If you want to see what an extraordinary dancer Nerina was this recording is for you. It does not use the sets used in the theatre but that does not matter when you have performances of this quality and freshness. The second recording dates from 1980. The dancers are Leslie Collier, Michael Coleman, Gary Grant and Brian Shaw . Unfortunately Grant was little more than a pale imitation of his older brother. We almost certainly owe this recording to the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday which is a pity because it catches Coleman's Colas a little too late to be ideal. However for me he is still better than either Colas on the later recordings because he dances Ashton idiomatically and well. At the time of this recording he was still the first cast Colas, Collier is a great Lise her footwork is brilliant, and she dances expansively and with vigour. I would have preferred Ronald Emblem as Simone to Brian Shaw. Emblem was a brilliant exponent of the role and his characterisation was far warmer than Shaw's. The best bit of Shaw's performance was always the way he swept of the stage at the end of the clog dance. which has not been preserved. The third recording stars Marianela Nunez, Carlos Acosta with Jonathan Howells and William Tuckett. While it may be true that a new recording was needed the problem is that Acosta is not an ideal Colas. He is not a natural Ashton dancer and clearly finds some of the steps awkward, Nunez on the otter hand is splendid and dances Ashton with real understanding of the style, The fourth is the recently released recording starring Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae with Paul Kay and Philip Moseley. The first night cast of Laura Morera, Vadim Muntagirov, Paul Kay and Will Tuckett had a real warmth to them which was lacking in the cast who appear on DVD. Morera is a fine Ashton dancer she has the footwork and the pliant upper body which the choreography requires. Osipova is a superstar and she is not,as yet, an Ashton dancer. Muntagirov " charmed with the innocence of youth" not something I would accuse McRae of doing. Paul Kay is excellent as Alain and in many other roles created by Alexander Grant, Philip Moseley characterisation is alright but he is not the best clog dancer to have graced the Covent Garden stage. .The recording is fine if you simply want a technician's approach and are happy with a close approximation to the style rather than the real thing.
  19. Our first experiences of ballet teach us how to watch it . We tend to apply those initial experiences to everything we see subsequently and this affects how we understand works created by choreographers with whose style we are unfamiliar. Once you have got your eye in it can be very difficult to fully appreciate a choreographer working in a very different style because he or she is not doing what you have come to expect a choreographer to do. Perhaps it is easier for someone who knows the late nineteenth century Russian repertory to get to appreciate and understand what Balanchine is doing than for someone who comes from a ballet tradition which does not often use formal devices such as processions and does not use dancers in ever changing groupings and patterns. Balanchine creates complex floor patterns just as Ashton does and both choreographers' ideas ultimately derive from late nineteenth century Russian practice. Most people I know sit upstairs at the ballet and would not dream of doing anything else when watching ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, Petipa or Ivanov. You will get so much more from the experience if you do. When you are able to see how the choreographer is moving his dancers round the stage as well as watching the soloists you will truly be seeing the ballet the choreographer created in all its complexity. All of the choreographers who I have mentioned created beautifully balanced complex ballets where the floor patterns for the corps is as important as the soloist's choreography. If you can try to see the same work a couple of times in quick succession. You will see more in it each time you view it .
  20. A richly deserved promotion. She is an exceptionally stylish and elegant dancer. I don't think that anyone who saw her rather than Cojocaru who is off injured will have thought that they were being short changed in any way.
  21. The news that Kaneko is replacing Morera is a real disappointment. Kaneko is not that bad but she is not in the same class as Morera in this role. Any way I hope that you manage to access the performance somehow..
  22. I have always thought that if you are able to do so you should try and see more than one cast performing a work with which you are unfamiliar. There is no guarantee that the first cast or the cast with most big names will be the best cast in any work. As far as Winter's Tale is concerned it is difficult to justify the description " rarely performed" which most of the dance critics have applied to it in their articles about the piece as it seems to have been a regular feature of London theatre life for years. It is no more difficult or complicated than any other Shakespeare play. The late plays are now described as the late plays rather than the "problem plays". It is years since anyone thought of Winter's Tale as little more than a failed reworking of Othello. I know several people who are keen theatre goers who say that it is their favourite Shakespeare play I understand that many ballet goers want narrative works. Not every new work is going to be a great one but Wheeldon's Winter's Tale shows how much he has learnt since making Alice. It has always seemed to me that both Ashton and Balanchine benefitted from their time working in the commercial theatre. As Balanchine said of Ashton and himself they may have made bad ballets but they did not make boring ones. I have no doubt that Wheeldon's experience in working on An American in Paris will feed into any other narrative works he makes. I am pleased that the Royal Ballet is once more a creative company and that it is able to work with the National Ballet of Canada. I don't expect to like every new work that the Royal Ballet produces and have not liked all of them. I have a long list of ballets that need to be revived beginning with the Diaghilev repertory, including a lot of Ashton and some of MacMillan's classical ballets. It seems to me that dwelling on the past is just as unhealthy for a ballet company as treating everything that is new as something to be treasured merely because it is novel. I think That Wheeldon has done remarkably well with Winter's Tale. I think that those who are able to do so should buy tickets for a couple of different casts see the ballet and make up their own minds about it. I hope some who go tell the forum what they thought of it . As far as the critics of the past are concerned we none of us know what they might think of this work or any other ballet that has been staged in the last twenty or thirty years, If they were around now they would also have experienced the dearth of new classically based work that we have. They too might be pleased to see that new works are being made. I don't know and I have no intention of trying to find out.
  23. It is a long time since a new narrative ballet has made such a positive impression on audiences and critics as Winter's Tale did at its London premiere. I think many harboured doubts about its suitability as a subject for ballet but Wheeldon received good advice as far as cutting and adapting the story for ballet treatment is concerned. The work that we saw in London was not perfect but it worked and I expect that it will have been altered for the better in its Canadian staging. I don't think that you can judge any ballet on the basis of streamed performances or DVDs . They are better than nothing but they only ever provide a shadow of the performance as experienced in the theatre. While it may be possible to judge the choreography in pure dance terms it is much more difficult to capture the expressive elements that the work contains. Natalia's comments about the bits of the work which she enjoyed most from the streaming and DVD are the opposite of my experience in the theatre. For me the jollifications of the second act rather overstayed their welcome and were insufficiently varied for my taste. In particular Wheeldon failed to distinguish Perdita and Florizel sufficiently in their choreography from the rest of the people involved in the second act. It was the first and third acts which were most compelling in the theatre because of the range of emotions which were expressed in dance terms. The only changes I should like to see in these acts are a little less lurking behind statues by Leontes as this continues long after the audience has got the message and the recognition scene given longer to register as in London it was over in the blink of an eye. While the oracle at Delphi plays no part in the ballet the restoration of Leontes' daughter to him is an important element of the last act and should be given more time to register. My reservations are little more than quibbles as the ballet does the job it was intended to do. I would urge anyone who can do so to buy a ticket and see it in the flesh. I don't think that you will be disappointed.I have already bought my tickets for the London revival later in the year.
  24. I wonder what sort of budget the Bavarian State Ballet had for its reconstruction of Paquita? While it is true that many European opera and ballet companies receive state subsidies it does not mean that they are all awash with cash. Comparing the ballet company at Munich with those at Paris or La Scala when it comes to the choice of designers or budgets for costumes makes little sense to me. Among other things it assumes that the three companies share a similar level of eminence in their respective countries and the same level of resources is available to each of them. France has seen the arts as a way of projecting its culture and power at least since the reign of Louis XIV, La Scala may not be in Rome but in many ways it operates as if it was. It is the main opera house of Italy and the centre of the country's operatic and balletic activity.Munich does not quite operate in that league. It is a state capital and while its opera company might be able to claim to be the greatest in Germany it can not make that sort of claim about its ballet company. Both Stuttgart and Hamburg have stronger claims because of the choreographers who have worked for them. If any German ballet companies receive lavish funding I would expect it to be these two rather than the Munich company. I have no doubt that the Bavarian State Opera is well funded but I would be very surprised if the ballet company at Munich got anywhere near the same budget as the opera company. The size of its budget will affect every aspect of its activities and in particular the amount of money available to spend on a new production which might be regarded by many as an experiment rather than a production likely to be revived over many seasons. A limited budget does not mean bad design although it does mean that cheaper materials are likely to be used. Having lavish funds does not guarantee that a good designer will be engaged or good costumes produced. But if I had to choose between a reconstruction which had a sound choreographic text based on the Stepanov notation, included all the mime which was part of the production at the time the text was notated and was danced in a period appropriate style and at a period appropriate speed but had cheap uninspired designs and one with a good choreographic text including the mime, with designs based on the original ones but danced in the currently fashionable style with high extensions and tempi so slow that they make a nonsense of Tchaikovsky's score I would choose the reconstruction which showed me the choreography danced in a way that Petipa might recognise as having some connection with his work. Of course I would like good designs too but it is the text including the mime performed in period appropriate style and speed which interests me.
  25. The powers that be at Covent Garden have recently invited audience suggestions of works for revival which have long been out of the repertory. Needless to say there have been many requests for the revival of works which are seen quite regularly and far fewer for rarely performed works which today means most of the Ashton repertory, all of the Diaghilev repertory and anything which suggests that MacMillan was quite an able classical choreographer.Ashton gets a mixed bill most years but he is deemed old fashioned and far less exciting than MacMillan. Wheeldon, Scarlett and McGregor who is regarded as a master choreographer in some quarters. . Now while Kevin O' Hare recently referred to MacMillan's works as company classics he has said that Ashton is central to the repertory. We are still waiting to see just how central, central is in the context of the Ashton repertory. In May we had stunning performances of Fille from Morera. Muntagirov and Kay and we have just had a run of Two Pigeons with both Monotones I and II and another run of Pigeons is due after Christmas with Rhapsody as its companion piece. Of the works mentioned in Ballet Annual I suspect that Cranko's Pastorale and Harlequin in April are incapable of revival but I may be being unduly pessimistic. I have no idea of the extent of the Cranko repertory conserved by the Stuttgart Company.I know that it is more committed to looking after its Cranko repertory than either of the Royal Ballet companies are in conserving and performing Ashton's works. Birmingham Royal Ballet has some Ashton works in its repertory including Fille and Two Pigeons. In 2014 it danced Facade. Les Rendezvous and Dante Sonata in a mixed bill .The Royal Ballet last danced Facade in the 1990's and Les Rendezvous in the 2004-2005 season. The Birmingham performances of Facade and Les Rendezvous which I saw were not cast with as much care as I should have liked.Les Rendezvous is currently saddled with a ghastly re-design which makes a nonsense of Ashton's floor plan because there is a big empty space at the back of the stage rather than park railings and a set of gates and dresses the dancers in truly hideous costumes. However weak the Chappell re-designs were thought to be their replacements are inept.The new designs destroy the mood of the ballet created by its setting and Chappell's vaguely nineteenth century costumes. The men now wear boaters and blazers which suggest the 1920's and the world of Facade and the women wear 1950's style full skirted polka dot decorated dresses and look as if they are wearing washing up gloves.. As far as Capriol Suite is concerned Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet danced it in the 1980's so it must have been notated . I can't remember whether it was part of the celebrations of the company's first fifty years or whether it was part of the celebrations of Ashton's eightieth birthday either seems possible.I went to see it not expecting too much. It is after all a very early work and knowing that it owes its origins to an early dance manual suggests that it will be dutiful rather than interesting. It is a gem of wit and invention, It is going to be one of the works that I suggest should be revived. If Ashton's choreography for Monotones can entrance an audience then Capriol Suite should be equal to the task as well. .
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